On a Tuesday on which the best women cyclists in the world thrilled in an engrossing La Course race, the GC riders of the Tour de France failed to put in any meaningful attacks on the first mountain stage of the 105th edition. Quick Step’s French musketeer Julian Alaphilippe earned his first Tour win solo out of a large breakaway, pulling on the polka dot jersey at the end of the stage. The main GC favourites still don’t take Greg Van Avermaet’s chances for overall victory seriously, as they let him get in a breakaway that took a large lead over the peloton. Van Avermaet leads Geraint Thomas by 2:22.
— Le Tour de France (@LeTour) July 17, 2018
It was time to climb. After a Cat. 4 appetizer, the riders faced three Cat. 1 and an HC-rated ascent over 158.5-km. The hardest climb, with a 1.8-km section of gravel after the peak, was the HC before the midway point of the race and final climb was the Cat. 1 Col de Colombiere peaking 14.5-km before the finish in Le Grand Bornand. The peloton would descend 10-km before a final flat 4.5-km.
Just like Bilbo Baggins, we will be heading into the mountains today, for a 158.5km stage between Annecy and Le Grand-Bornand, whose menu – featuring five classified climbs – could easily feature in any Michelin-starred restaurant.#TDF2018 pic.twitter.com/Te7iQmDoZw
— Quick-Step Cycling (@quickstepteam) July 17, 2018
Before the race got out of the neutral zone, Mikel Landa’s hard luck continued when he crashed. With so many KOM points on offer Tuesday, there was sure to be a hotly contested escape. After several attempts, Alaphilippe formed a fugitive group on Cat. 4 Col de Bluffy.
The breakaway was sizeable, and grew further when yellow jersey Van Avermaet joined it.
— La Flamme Rouge (@laflammerouge16) July 17, 2018
Whoever topped the first Cat. 1, the 11.3-km, 7 percent Col de la Croix Fry, would become the King of the Mountains on the road. Peter Sagan was in the break to take the maximum green jersey points from the day’s intermediate sprint. Rudy Molard (France/Groupama-FDJ) tipped over in the lead, with the escape split in tow. On the descent the break’s lead was 4:00.
The HC-rated Col des Glières was 6-km of 11.2 percent, seemingly too far from the finish to spark an attack out of the peloton. Alaphilippe took the maximum KOM points, but, along with Molard’s teammate David Gaudu, was one point behind Molard. Chris Froome punctured on the gravel.
— BORA – hansgrohe (@BORAhansgrohe) July 17, 2018
Last Two Mountains
Coming off Col des Glières with a 7:00 lead, things were looking good for the breakaway.
The two Cat. 1s were close together, their peaks 14-km apart. First up was the Col de Romme (8.8-km of 8.9 percent) followed by the Col de la Colombiere (7.5-km of 8.5 percent).
— Le Tour de France (@LeTour) July 17, 2018
The break hit the foot of Romme with a 6:15 gap. Immediately there was a streamlining of the escape, as Sky and Movistar drove the peloton towards the first slopes. Astana massed at the front as the road kicked up.
Direct Energie’s Estonian Rein Taaramäe went solo from the escape group and it took Alaphilippe a couple of kilometres to rein him back in. The Frenchman left the Estonian behind to overtake Molard in the King of the Mountains.
Back in the peloton, Rigoberto Uran, who came a cropper on Sunday’s cobblestones, struggled at the back of the peloton and would fade back on the next mountain.
Alaphilippe hit the foot of the Colombiere with a 26-second lead over Taaramäe, a minute over the Van Avermaet set and over five minutes in front of the favourites group, where Sky did its usual stifling tactics. Alaphilippe’s teammate Bob Jungels went out the back of the peloton, followed by Ilnur Zakarin, Rafal Majka and Bauke Mollema.
Alaphilippe’s maiden triumph was the first French win of the 105th edition and Quick Step’s 50th of the season.
Although attacks were in short supply among the heads of state, there was a reshuffle near the top of the GC. Alejandro Valverde is now third, followed by Jakob Fuglsang, Jungels, Froome, Adam Yates, Landa, Vincenzo Nibali and Primoz Roglic in the top-10.
Wednesday sees the first mountain summit finish of the race on La Rosière Espace San Bernardo at the end of a 108-km.
2018 Tour de France Stage 10
1) Julian Alaphilippe (France/Quick Step) 4:25:27
2) Jon Izagirre (Spain/Bahrain-Merida) +1:34
3) Rein Taaramäe (Estonia/Direct Energie) +1:40
2018 Tour de France GC
1) Greg Van Avermaet (Belgium/BMC) 40:34:28
2) Geraint Thomas (Great Britain/Sky) +2:22
3) Alejandro Valverde (Spain/Movistar) +3:10